Today was one of those days that makes me want to stay here forever and at the same time leave right away because it isn’t going to get any better than this. We started with our usual sheep head observation. A slow morning we started with a juvenile Bateleur and a Tawny eagle. But it wasn’t long before a White-back, a pair of Lappets, and a pair of White-headed vultures were circling overhead.
At the same time, I noticed a pair of secretary birds wandering around nearby. Known for eating snakes, I didn’t imagine they would show too much interest in the carcass, but I managed to glace over at them once in a while just in case. Not long after the first Tawny had flown away with its monstrous share of the meat, I noticed three bat- eared foxes scampering along in the tall grass. The secretary birds also took an interest and were soon chasing down the foxes and scaring them away. With the foxes gone, the gangly looking birds turned their attention to the juvenile Bateleur who had finally gotten a chance to eat with the Tawny eagle gone. No longer, soon the secretary birds were upon him, flying down at him as he spread his wings in defense. Soon he had no choice but to leave and the secretarys stood over the sheep head, claiming victory. I sat patiently wondering how exactly they planned to eat this cumbersome hunk of meat with such small beaks. But they showed no interest in the food and just stood nearby waiting for the next unsuspecting subject. Who happened to be my favorite, the White-headed vulture.
The male of the pair had decided to try his wing at the food, but was quickly pounced upon by the secretary birds and had to fly off as well. It wasn’t until a hyena noticed all the commotion that the sheep head was finally finished and the secretary birds decided to move on. After this totally unheard of all out assault from the
secretary birds, I figured the exciting part of the day was over.
Given the hyena’s assistance, the observations had ended early and we headed off for the afternoon transect.
We stopped next to a small tree and discovered eleven lions snoozing.
Four females, two males (one which I have since named scar due to the large black slash under his eye), and five cubs of varying age, it was quite a sight. Luxuriously relaxed one of the females rolled onto her back and the cub pounced upon the ripe swollen nipples. She quickly flipped back over and surprisingly they moved to the next lioness and got a drink there. “They share,” Wilson announced in awe.
As each female slowly changed position to hide her goods, the cubs got restless and decided to climb the tree that was providing shade for the whole pride. One after another, they clumsily pawed their way up to a low-lying branch and then fought to get comfortable and rest among the tree’s limbs, their paws and tails hanging down above the others’ heads.
After an hour of lions, I figured we should get back to work and we noticed a long line of cars. Could it be a carcass? Like the vultures that we are, we drove over to see what the others were looking at. A leopard was hiding in the tall grass. Like a spy on a mission, it hunkered down and crept towards a small herd of gazelle. At one point it reached an open patch and like some Austin Powers movie, it felt a need to roll (not somersaulting like an assassin), but on to it back and then back on to its bent limbs before continuing the march forward. It got within five feet of the herd, just close enough that I was desperately aiming my camera, not daring to miss such a shot.
Even as the leopard moved out of our view, the gazelles were not left unaware and soon spotted the spotted cat and took off. Not quite the end result I had hoped for, but predators are rarely successful and it is unusual for a leopard to hunt so early in the day, so it wasn’t too surprising. Perhaps better luck next time.